Complete Capital: A Framework for Non-Profit Sustainability

July 8, 2014

Complete CapitalThe Mentoring Partnership network, composed of 26 states, gathered recently in Richmond, Virginia to discuss and learn more about non-profit sustainability.  Our host, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, invited Christiana Fischer from the Non-Profit Finance Fund (NPFF) to share her expertise and help Mentoring Partnership’s apply strategies to sustain their work and support mentor programs across the country.

The NPFF provides loans, financial guidance, and other expertise to thousands of non-profits around the country.  NPFF has developed a framework called Complete Capital that includes four key components for non-profit sustainability.  The components include:  1. Financial capital to support change, 2. Intellectual data capture and connection to impact, 3. Human resources to deliver and measure, 4. Social collaboration and partnerships.

Each of these components is critical to planning for non-profit sustainability.  During a recent survey conducted by NPFF, they found that achieving long-term financial sustainability was the number one challenge of non-profits.

Building a financially sustainable enterprise requires a deep understanding of four key questions.

  1. What is our reliable, recurring revenue??
  2. What is our full cost of doing business?  (Do we have resources to address current and future needs?)
  3. What is the health of our balance sheet? (Do we have enough cash to meet operating needs?)
  4. What are our capitalization needs? (Do we have flexible funds that allow for adjustments?)

The data capture and connection to impact requires real-time information to enhance front-line service delivery and is built to create a competitive advantage in attracting capital by quantifiably demonstrating outcomes with funders and investors

Human capital includes the knowledge, skills, and talent needed to achieve the mission of the non-profit.  This component assesses staff, board, volunteers, management, and other advisors for the organization.  This also includes strategies to grow the team and create a culture of the organization with a sustainability and growth mindset.

The last component of complete capital addresses social collaboration and partnerships.  This encompasses the connection to the community, collaboration muscle in coordinating multiple partners, willingness to share experiences broadly, and a commitment to partnerships in times of ambiguity and change. This component harnesses the collective power of a non-profit.

Oftentimes, non-profits will focus on financial sustainability while neglecting the importance of the other components of demonstrating an impact, ensuring you have the right people and skills to achieve the mission, and the external partners and collaborations in place to leverage collective impact.

The Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota will be working with our local partner, the Non-Profit Assistance Fund, to expand application of these strategies with our mentor program network.  Our upcoming conferences this fall will include an in-depth workshop on sustainability.  Sustainability is an orientation not a destination.  All of us in the non-profit sector should equip ourselves with the understanding and ability to address all components of sustainability.